Tuesday, November 08, 2016
This One's For You, Mary Johnston
The hallowed halls of the Virginia General Assembly never heard such a speech as the one Mary Johnston gave before the learned politicos on January 19, 1912.
An advocate for a woman’s right to vote, Johnston, a Botetourt County native and by then a much-accomplished and well-respected author (she wrote To Have and To Hold, The Long Roll, Hagar, and 25 other books, a play or two, poetry, and short stories), told the legislatures that she paid $1,000 annually in taxes to the state, yet had no voice in how the revenue was spent.
Her family settled western Virginia and had fought in all of the country’s wars up to that time. Yet recent male immigrants, who knew nothing of democracy, she said, were treated as if they knew better than she what the interests of the state might be.
“We are asking that those who live under the laws of a state . . . may have something to do with the making of those laws,” Johnston said in another speech, this time before a meeting of governors. “We are asking that we who pay a very considerable portion of the taxes of the State and of the country may have a voice in the apportionment of those taxes. We are asking that we who work may have a say as to the conditions under which we work.”
For six years, Johnston gave up much of her life so that women could obtain the right to vote. She suffered from vicious personal attacks from anti-suffrage groups. She did not give up.
In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution gave women the right to vote. Now, 104 years after Johnston spoke before the Virginia General Assembly, and 96 years after women received the right to vote, a woman is on the ballot, running for president in one of the two major parties.
At this very moment, there are folks working to undermine a linchpin of democracy that 50 percent of you, male and female, black or white, apparently take for granted. Or did that hashtag #repealthe19th not catch your attention?
I voted for Secretary Clinton because she cannot be the crooked thief that she has been accused of being. If so, she must be the smartest crook alive, given that for 25 years she has withstood a constant barrage of hatred, vilification, smears, mudslinging, and investigations. Surely if there was something to the charges, somebody would have figured it out by now.
She is resilient. I admire that. She is intelligent. She is informed on the details of domestic and foreign policy. She is, in my opinion, the most highly-informed and best-trained person to ever run for the office of president. She may be hawkish on foreign policy, but I know from my work as a news reporter that people often change their minds when they take office. The view is different from the Oval Office.
Is she lily-white perfect? No. How could she be? Snow White doesn't stand a chance in this world - and you're never going to get a perfect person in the White House. Her character flaws are miniscule compared to those of her opponent. If a man were running with her flaws, he would be considered a saint.
I like Hillary Clinton because I have followed her career for many years. I've read autobiographies about her. I've also read the Democratic Party Platform, and I applaud it's goals. I read through the Republican Party Platform and not once did I see the word "art" in there. Maybe I missed it. But it is in the Democratic Party Platform, right in the table of contents, and art is important to me. Art makes for a better world. The lack of it makes misery.
"Promoting Arts and Culture
Democrats are proud of our support for arts funding and education. We are committed to continuing the policies and programs that have already done so much for our creative arts industry and economy. Investment in the arts strengthens our communities and contributes to our nation’s rich cultural heritage. We will continue to support public funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and for programs providing art and music education in primary and secondary schools. The entire nation prospers when we protect and promote the unique artistic and cultural contributions of the women and men who create and preserve our nation’s heritage." (page 21)
Mary Johnston, I think, would approve of my vote.